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D-300 rejects online charter school proposal

ALGONQUIN – District 300 board members Monday resoundingly rejected a proposed online charter school that would have taken thousands of dollars away from district coffers amid cash-strapped times for schools across the state.

Some members from the Carpentersville-based school district also had concerns with K12 Inc., the company selected to oversee daily administrative and curriculum management for the proposed Virtual Charter School at the Fox River Valley.

The board was equally upset at the lack of interest from Virtual Learning Solutions, the newly formed nonprofit pushing the proposal.

The group, which would govern the online charter, largely ignored many of the district’s questions about the charter during a public hearing last month.

“It’s another attempt to siphon off dollars to a public school system that is already stretched beyond its means,” said board member Chris Stanton. “The matter in which they made their presentation, I’m not sure I would let them baby-sit my dog.”

The district had earlier projected to lose anywhere between $535,430 to $906,700 annually in tax dollars, without any easy way to compensate for the loss, if the charter school was approved.

Other members, such as Joe Stevens, argued that K12 Inc.’s spotty track record with student performance at similar online, K-12 charter schools in more than 20 states was too grave to overlook. K12 Inc., a Virginia-based for-profit company, has been scrutinized by national media and academic researchers since its founding for its obligation to shareholders in the face of a subpar record on student achievement.

Virtual Learning Solutions has proposed starting an online-only, K-12 charter school that would enroll students from 18 school districts throughout the Fox Valley. District boards from Elgin to Yorkville also were taking similar votes on the proposal Monday night.

The nonprofit has already come under heavy criticism from school administrators throughout the region for ignoring their concerns about the charter during public hearings last month.

In a last-second effort to answer concerns, the nonprofit released a 1,100-page document to districts throughout the region late last week. On Monday, District 300 board members argued that the nonprofit’s overture was made too late.

They unanimously denied the proposal, despite knowing that the nonprofit plans to appeal any rejection by a district to the Illinois Charter School Commission.

Members argued that Virtual Learning Solutions’ plan all along was to ignore local school districts and win the appeal with state commission members, who favor the proposal.

“I think this is a political decision all the way through, and I don’t think it had anything to do with how the 18 school districts felt about it,” Stevens said. “I’m very concerned about the appeal.”

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